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Hands-on: The more powerful, more durable, and more expensive Apple iPhone XS and XS Max

By James Lu - 13 Sep 2018

Hands-on: The more powerful, more durable, and more expensive Apple iPhone XS and XS Max

After skipping the 's' models last year, it's back to Apple's regular schedule with this year's new iPhone XS and XS Max. If you're familiar with how Apple does things, you know that means this year's models look almost the same as last year's, with the real difference being what's inside the phones. For this year at least, the XS Max does stand out in one very notable way: it's a lot bigger than the iPhone X.

With a massive 6.5-inch display - the largest Apple has ever put on a smartphone - the Max is the Plus model for Apple's new generation of iPhones. In fact, put the XS Max and the iPhone 8 Plus side-by-side, and they're practically the same size. The XS Max's display has a 2,688 x 1,242 pixels resolution (~458ppi) while the XS has the same 5.8-inch display size as last year's iPhone X, and a 2,436 x 1,125 pixels resolution (~458ppi) meaning you get the same sharpness and clarity in both sizes. Both phones' displays look more vibrant than last year's too, thanks to a 60 percent greater dynamic range.

Don't they look great?

According to Apple, both the XS and XS Max use a new ultra-durable glass that's more shatter and scratch resistant than ever. Both phones are also now IP68 rated (improved from the previous IP67 rating), which puts them on par with the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and this means they can stay submerged in two meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

If you really want people to know you have the latest iPhone, the XS and XS Max come in a new gold color that is absolutely gorgeous. Gold isn't a new color for iPhones (the iPhone 5s was available in gold five years ago) but this gold looks like nothing Apple has done before. The aluminum gold used on previous iPhones was always somewhat subdued due to its semi-matte finish, but the stainless steel frame of the iPhone XS and XS Max makes the gold color shine with a mirror-like bling that is sure to turn heads. For the first time, you can get a smartphone that really looks like it's made of gold.

Other than screen size, both phones have identical specs, so unlike previous iPhones where you only got a dual camera setup with the larger model, you're not penalized for opting for the smaller size. Both phones use Apple’s new A12 Bionic processor, which is the first smartphone chip built on a 7nm process technology, and boasts an improved octa-core dedicated neural processor (up from dual-core on the iPhone X). The new A12 is supposedly 15% faster than last year's A11 and it can help launch apps up to 30% quicker too.

Apple showed off the power of its new processor with a demo of Bethesda's upcoming game, The Elder Scrolls Blades. The game features PC-quality graphics and looks absolutely amazing. I had a brief session with the game at the demo area and was blown away, not just by the graphics quality, but how smoothly the game ran.

The rear cameras have each seen improvements too, with larger pixels on the wide-angle lens and a wider aperture on the telephoto lens. Portrait Mode has also been improved with a new adjustable depth-of-field feature that lets you adjust the amount of bokeh after you've taken the shot. You can go all the way from f/1.4 up to f/16. Here's a quick demo of it in action:-

There's also a new Smart HDR mode that combines multiple exposures together to create the perfect shot. We've already seen something similar to these features on Samsung's recent flagships, but it's still a welcome addition to the iPhone. 

On the front, the front-facing camera has a new 7-megapixel sensor and an f/2.2 lens. The True Depth system (dot projector, IR camera, flood illuminator) that makes Face ID possible is apparently faster and more secure too, although I wasn't able to test this myself.

Pre-orders for the iPhone XS and XS Max begin on 3:01 PM on 14th September, with a shipping date of 21st Sep in Silver, Space Gray and the new Gold finish.

  • The 5.8-inch iPhone XS has a starting price of S$1,649 for the 64GB model, S$1,889 for the 256GB model, and S$2,199 for the 512GB model.
  • The 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max is priced at S$1,799 for the 64GB model, S$2,039 for the 256GB model, and S$2,349 for the 512GB model.

For a more a detailed look at everything new from Apple, check out these recommended reads:-